Taking care of our mental health is one of the most important things we can do. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen provides helpful tips for boosting our mental health. Click to read Dr. Amen’s blog post regarding The 7 Best Feel-Good Alternatives to Replace Hugs.
By Dana Adams
Summer has officially come to an end, which means we say a temporary farewell to the beloved sunny, warmer days. As summer days fade into cooler autumn nights, the season isn’t the only thing changing. We may begin to experience less energy, sadness, fluctuation in weight, lack of motivation and focus, and a longing to stay curled up in bed. Have you noticed this about yourself? Or, maybe the holiday blues seem harder to get over and are getting worse year after year?
This can be alarming, and often frustrating as we question what’s wrong with us and why we can’t just shake it off. You’re not alone, friend. The fall and winter blues are very normal and commonly felt among many. If these symptoms are proving to be more and more difficult to overcome and impacting everyday life, it could be Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
This time of the year can bring up great personal loss, which can make it increasingly difficult to manage symptoms of Seasonal Depression. Add to that the significant life changes due to COVID-19, it’s unimaginable what this season can mean for so many. With the approaching hustle and bustle of the holiday season, my heart inclines a little closer toward the one who is quietly hurting. The one who overbooks during this time to try and forget their loneliness and aching grief that nostalgia now brings. The one who holds back anxiety while carving the Thanksgiving turkey. The one who flawlessly shines in their tacky Christmas sweater holding on to beliefs that they are unseen.
I understand it well, and can find myself most days during this season feeling like the winter months will never end. It was 8 years ago during this time that my journey to soul healing began. I remember feeling beyond hopeless and broken. I, too, spent the holiday season holding in deep sorrow, sadness, and grief as the most wonderful time of the year made its deafening approach.
Loneliness, depression, anxiety, grief, family dysfunction, health crisis, financial strain, addiction, fears, stress, stress and more stress stay wrapped up inside as a haunting heaviness. Whatever your haunting heaviness is that tries to restrict joy and peace, please hear me when I say that you are not alone.
You don’t have to overcome the holiday blues, or Seasonal Depression, alone or without tools. Here are some ideas to help get ahead of the holiday blues this season:
- Enjoy the sun: Take a walk outside or keep the shades open. Pro-tip: Mid-day provides the strongest light!
- Exercise regularly
- Stay connected to others
- Journal: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help sort through the negative to find the positive. Try starting each entry with 1-3 things you’re grateful for.
- Engage in healthy habits: less drinking, stay away from overeating, drink more water, etc.
- Try Light Therapy: This can include exposure to direct sunlight or using Light Therapy Lamps.
- Talk with a Counselor: Counseling provides helpful emotional support that can provide healthy coping strategies to overcome the holiday blues.
- Medication: Talk with your doctor to see if starting antidepressants before the start of winter and continuing until spring would be right for you.
Lastly, pray and seek Jesus. The Lord can handle our hurts. He wants us to bring them to him. He knows exactly what we’re going through. He promises to give rest for our weariness and heavy burdens in our constant fruitless toil of trying to get it right. With so much busyness either on its way or already here, it’ll be important to make time to take care of ourselves. Maybe one thing our weary souls need most right now is to rest in the arms of a loving Savior, the true reason for this amazing season.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I confess….I have an addiction: food. I love food of all kinds. But I love it so much I’ve damaged my God-given shut-off alarm! However, if I’m truly honest, my addiction isn’t necessarily to food. No, my addiction isn’t food, but instead it is an addiction to “me”.
I want what I want. I want what I like. I want what stirs happy feelings and comforts me (however briefly). Yeah, I’m addicted to me, my flesh. I struggle resisting what I think I need and then struggle even worse when I try not to overeat.
Way too often I get in my own head and the hamster wheel of negative thoughts and feelings increases to 100 miles per hour. If I am feeling strong that day, I can use my tools (Bible reading, accountability, gratitude list) and calm the spin, or stop it completely. Well, for a while, that is.
One day, I woke up in a frustrated, defeated funk. My thoughts were sliding down a slippery slope and I prayed during my devotions, “Please Lord, transform my thinking today to positive thoughts!” I knew where my thinking would lead if it kept going in that downward direction. I had certainly been there before.
See, I had made a conscious decision nearly 30 days prior to work on my health by eating healthier and being more active. Did I want to lose weight? SURE! But even more so, I wanted to like myself again and continue to be around as my grandchildren grew up. Unfortunately, my typical pattern has been to go strong for 1 month. I experience victories, but then my addiction to “me” reawakens. Eventually, I give up.
On this particularly “down” day, I was approaching my 1-month mark since starting my commitment again. With my rut pattern of thinking, my brain (and Satan) reminded me and reared it’s ugly head, taking me back to a place of defeat again.
As I drove to work that day, my mind continued to slide into a pit. I tried brushing it off and putting it out of my mind. Thankfully, I work with people who care about me, know me, AND who call me out when I need it. After a grateful time of talking and encouragement, the Lord reminded me of a post I had put on Facebook the previous day. It was the verse found in 1 John 5:4, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”
I have to admit, my faith is often less than a mustard seed size, especially that day. But I realized it’s because I’m looking at myself to achieve these hard things. I’m reminded that only God can achieve true victory in and through me. My role is to just keep my eyes on Jesus!!
Today, I confessed my addiction to “me” and my fear of failure (again) to God; and now to you. God answered my prayer that day. I am trusting He will break this cycle of failure and surrender to defeat, because I surely can’t do it in my own strength!
God didn’t transform my thinking immediately, nor did He do it in the way I perceived in my head, but He did do it that day! I will need to pray this promise from Him often as I struggle with negative thinking. For now, I can go back to that day in my mind (and my prayer journal) and remember how He honored my prayer. God loves me and I am forever grateful!
I believe there may be others of you, like me, who have patterns of defeat. You begin strong but ultimately give up. Your addiction or struggle may be very different from mine. As the patterns are repeated, you get frustrated, anxious, depressed, and scared because you believe you know what’s coming. However, I encourage you to stop living according to a faulty belief. Use the lies and truths outlined below to identify what you’re feeling right now. Then look up the Scripture indicated and pray, pray, pray! It is very powerful to insert your name into the Scripture and pray it out loud.
By Karen Grotler
Celebrating the Christmas Season means excitement and enjoyment. It involves spending time with the special people we love and enjoying delicious food. In your holiday festivities, remember to take care of your health too. Overindulgence can leave you feeling sick and regretful. Remember to enjoy yourself without sabotaging your health.
Many people aren’t aware of the effects that sugar can have on the body and mind. If you’d like to learn more, click here to read Brain MD’s article ‘What Do Sugar and Cocaine Have in Common?’
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay.